Tired of your T-shirt sleeves blowing in the wind? Well, clicking on this article is your first rep towards building bigger biceps, triceps and forearms. Each of these arm exercises hits maximum muscle fibres to spark the growth you’re after and proves any piece of kit – in the right hands and in the right arm workout – has gun-toting potential to build bigger, thicker arms.
And if you’re wondering why exactly it is that you need to know 18 arm exercises, it’s because if you want to build arms that really pop, you’ll need to hit them from a variety of angles, which is a muscle-building theory that has been confirmed by research conducted by the Department of Health Science and Human Performance at the University of Tampa, Florida.
Below, we present a detailed ‘how to’ that’ll ensure you complete each rep with perfect form and explain the specific benefit of each exercise – helping you pick the perfect combination for every goal. Say hello to your new strong arm tactics.
18 Best Arm Exercises
If you want to build big arms then you’re going to need to workout your biceps, triceps and forearms, which is why we’ve selected exercises that hit all three muscle groups.
The 8 Best Bicep Exercises
1. Incline Bicep Curl
How to: Sit on an incline bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length. Use your biceps to curl the dumbbell until it reaches your shoulder, then lower them back down to your side and repeat.
Why: Beware: this position isolates the biceps and prevents other muscles from sharing the load. You can work the entire muscle by turning your wrists out slightly and keeping your elbows pointed towards the floor throughout the rep, a range of motion not available in other arm exercises.
How to: Sit down on bench and rest your right arm against your right leg, letting the weight hang down. Curl the weight up, pause, then lower. Repeat with the other arm.
Why: This isolates the arm flexors and hits the lateral head of the biceps for peak performance (and appearance).
3. Twisting Dumbbell Curl
How to: Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your side with palms facing each other. Use your bicep to curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders alternately, twisting your palms to face your chest as you lift them. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to your side and repeat.
Why: The twist brings your forearm into play. It won’t hit your biceps as hard as other arm exercises, but when you’re squeezing sets in over lunch this move will hit more of your arm in less time.
4. Underhand Seated Row
How to: Bend your knees and hold the bar with an underhand grip, shoulder-width apart. Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight, then use your back muscle to drive the bar towards your belly button. Return the bar to starting position and repeat.
Why: Go one better than bodyweight moves in your quest for bigger biceps — this doesn’t take up a squat rack, either.
5. Reverse Curl Straight Bar
How to: Stand and grip a barbell at shoulder width with an overhand grip. Flex the elbows and rotate the barbell upwards, only using your forearms, until your palms face out and the barbell is in line with your shoulders. Return it back down slowly and repeat.
Why: Often neglected because it works the brachialis, an invisible muscle lower down your upper arm — but one essential for bigger biceps. Train it well and the brachialis pushes the peak of your bicep muscle up higher, making for a more impressive flex and bigger looking arms.
6. Leant-forward EZ Bar Curl
How to: Hold the EZ bar in front of your thighs with an underhand, shoulder-width grip. Lean forward slightly, so your torso’s around 30-degrees to your hips. As you breathe in, curl the bar until your hands are at your shoulders. Squeeze your biceps, then lower under control.
Why: You’re working the main flexor muscle involved in finger strength, which will earn you a vice-like grip for the bigger lifts – and a bone-crushing handshake for good measure. Plus, that forward tilt means using your hips to swing up the final few reps is a no-no. Perfect form for perfect gains.
7. Reverse-grip EZ Bar Curl
How to: Hold the EZ bar in front of your thighs with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. As you breathe in, curl the bar until your hands are at your shoulders. Squeeze your biceps, then lower under control.
Why: No matter how many arm exercises and curls you crank out, biceps development can be severely limited by weaknesses in your elbows and forearms. This move hits your brachioradialis (forearm muscle) to remedy it.
8. Prone Dumbbell Spider Curl
How to: Lie on an incline bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand, letting them hang underneath your shoulders. Use your biceps to curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders. Slowly return to starting position and repeat.
Why: Lying against the bench helps your master the proper curling technique – useful in loads of arm exercises. If your chest lifts off it, that’s cheating, but keep it flat for every rep and you know you’ve nailed another set in your quest for bigger biceps.
The 8 Best Tricep Exercises
9. Diamond Press-up
How to: Lie on the floor with your body straight and form a diamond shape with your hands. Lower your body down until your chest is almost touching the floor. Press your body back up to the starting position, squeezing your triceps and chest at the same time.
Why: Narrowing your grip works all three heads of your triceps, along with your chest, to sculpt eye-catching definition.
10. Javelin Press
How to: Hold an EZ bar in your right hand just above your shoulder. Extend your arm and drive the bar above you, then lower it back down to your shoulder and repeat.
Why: This works your triceps unilaterally (one arm at a time) for even gains, while the added instability from ungainly equipment helps activate smaller shoulder muscles that injury proof the joint. Plus, you’ll look like a pro next to the guys toting dumbbells.
11. One Arm Tricep Extension (seated)
How to: Hold a dumbbell in one hand directly behind your head, with your elbow bent and pointed towards the ceiling. Extend through your elbow until your arm is straight and the dumbbell is directly above you. Lower your arm back to starting position and repeat.
Why: This move builds arm strength and adds stability to your shoulders and elbows. Plus, working unilaterally will put an end to any muscle imbalances.
12. Decline Close-grip EZ Bar Skullcrusher
How to: Lie back on a bench set to a 30-degree decline. Grip the EZ bar on the innermost grips and extend your arms straight up, palms facing your feet. Keeping your elbows fixed and tucked in, lower the bar until it is about an inch from your forehead. Slowly extend your arms back to the starting position without locking your elbows.
Why: Don’t be scared of the name, this is one of the arm exercises for ultimate triceps builders. Set the bench to decline and it’ll increase your range of motion for increased muscle activation.
13. Tate Press
How to: Lie on a bench and hold two dumbbells directly above your shoulders. Slowly bend your elbows to bring the dumbbells to your chest, so your palms face outwards and the dumbbells point towards the ceiling. Raise the dumbbells back to starting position and repeat.
Why: Working at this angle places more emphasis on the long head of the triceps for more visible muscle separation at the back of your arms. Wearing a vest to show them off at the office is against the rules, sadly.
14. Standing Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension
How to: Grab a barbell and stand with it held over your head in both hands, hands almost touching and palms facing forwards. Bend your elbows to slowly lower the bar behind your head, keeping your upper arms stationary. One your elbows hit 90 degrees, pause, then return to the starting position by flexing your triceps.
Why: Using a barbell overhead, instead of dumbbells, gives you a gripping advantage. Use your strength to try and snap the barbell at the top of the rep, it’ll activate the maximum amount of muscle fibres.
15. Close-grip Bench Press
How to: Grasp a barbell with an overhand grip that’s shoulder-width apart, and hold it above your sternum with arms completely straight. Lower the bar straight down, pause, and then press the bar back up to the starting position.
Why: This is a great tricep exercise that works both your chest and core. By placing your hands closer together your triceps have to work harder, which leads to new growth and more strength.
16. Tricep Dips (Advanced)
How to: Hoist yourself up on parallel bars with your torso perpendicular to the floor. Bend your knees and slowly lower your body until your shoulder joints are below your elbows. Push back up until your elbows are nearly straight but not locked. If you have shoulder issues, skip this move.
Why: Lifting your entire bodyweight means your triceps have to work against a much heavier load than they would if you were just isolating your tri’s.
Best Forearm and Wrist Exercises
17. Straight Barbell Palms-up Wrist Curl
How to: Sit on a bench and hold a barbell with your palms facing up. Rest your forearms on your knees and lower the bar towards the floor as far as possible. Curl your wrist upward, pause, then slowly lower.
Why: Your forearms will be on display long after your beach body has gone back into hiding, so give them due care. Your grip strength will be much improved come deadlift day too.
18. Straight Barbell Palms-down Wrist Curl
How to: Sit on a bench and hold a barbell with your palms facing down. Rest your forearms on your knees and lower the bar towards the floor as far as possible. Curl your wrist upward, pause, then slowly lower.
Why: This subtle move isn’t one for show-boating, but don’t skip it. It targets the extensor muscles to minimise wrist and elbow injury during other moves.
PT Tips for Building Your Arms
Specialist strength and conditioning trainer Jamie Inzani, of One Personal Training, reveals four sure-fire ways to build bigger arms.
Use Heavy Dropsets
Inzani advises loading up a bar with a weight you can bear for 5 strict reps, before dropping to a rep-out weight. Using strict, unilateral movements (that’s one arm at a time) squeeze out 8-10 reps in each arm, keeping the elbows next to the body, your back straight and without rocking, Form is important – don’t move the resting arm until the other has finished its rep.
Use Multi-grip Drop Sets
Inzani overloads his muscles by switching between weaker and stronger grips, double and single-arm movements and strong to double-arm grips. Why? Moving from double-arm to single-arm movements creates more ‘neural’ drive when you only have one arm – engaging the nervous system to recruit and work-out more of the muscle fibres in the arm than conventional sets. With a manageable weight, and switching constantly between hammer, cross-body, normal and reverse grips, crank out 8 reps with both arms then the same with each, singly.
Use The Zottman Curl
To build a big, thick upper-arm, it’s not all about the bicep – this exercise works the oft-overlooked elbow flexors. To begin, grasp a couple of dumbbells and sit at the edge of a flat bench, extending your arms fully downward and with the palms facing forward. Curl as usual, but keeping the palm turned away from the body so as not to recruit the forearm flexors – if necessary, bend your wrist backwards. At the top, rotate your palms so that they face downwards, ready to perform the ‘eccentric’ (downward) portion of a reverse dumbbell curl, before slowly lowering. Keep your elbows pinned to your side the entire time – if they tend to flare out use less weight. Do 8-10 reps for 3 sets.
Again, the correct form is important in turning this gym staple into a lethal weapon in your arm-building armoury. A proper chin-up is centred around straight arms pulling the chin up over the bar – start by holding the bar with hands spaced, initially, about 6-inches apart, and try to engage the lats to get moving. At the peak, deploy your biceps to hold the contraction and count for a two-second squeeze. Inzani’s advice is to employ the muscles’ natural ‘elastic potential,’ by exploding up at the bottom of the movement, instead of dithering. Result? You squeeze out an extra couple of reps and add size to your biceps.
5 Best Arm Workouts
Now you know the best arm exercises, get ready to challenge yourself with these arm workouts.
This 15-Minute Dumbbell Arm Workout Builds Muscle, Fast
This dumbbell workout provides a targeted circuit that requires little equipment and delivers maximum results.
Hit Terry Crews’ 3-Move Arm Workout for an Unbeatable Pump
Actor and former NFL footballer, Terry Crews workout has been pretty much the same for the past 20 years. Check out his old-school arm workout below.
Build Serious Arm Size with This Standalone Triceps Workout
Use dropsets as well as traditional sets and reps to build you a set of arms that will pop out of any t-shirt.
The 20-Minute All-Angles Biceps Workout
Supercharge your arm growth by challenging your biceps with new angles and twists.
This Bodyweight Workout Will Get Your Arms Pumped
Zero equipment – maximum gains. This bodyweight-only session can be done inside or outside. Just get it done.
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